As we build up to the impending start of the 13th European Championships, I thought I’d take a walk down memory lane and share my five favourite games that this tournament has thrown up over the years with you and I’ll start with the match that hooked me in to become the football obsessive that I am today.
Number 5: France v Portugal Euro 84 Semi-Final. 23rd of June, 1984
The first tournament that I remember properly was the 1984 Championships, held in France. This was the first time I had ever seen Michel Platini play live and the maestro had a dazzling effect on an 11 year old football fan that summer. The game that stood out was the France v Portugal semi final, a wonderful game for football fans the world over. If you ever get the chance to watch this game, I implore you to do so.
The French triumphed 3-2 in extra time and were facing the exit with 6 minutes to go.
France had led in normal time through Domergue and the French seemed unstoppable, but a late equaliser from Jordao had taken the game into extra time. 8 minutes in, Jordao got his second of the game and the host nation were in trouble. Yet Platini and his midfield colleagues Tigana, Giresse and Fernadez had other ideas and blitzed the Portuguese with a mesmerising display of midfield magic. It was wonderful to see a team play with so much positivity.
Platini drove Les Blues forward and his assist set up Domergue for his second with only 6 minutes remaining and it fell to Platini to settle the match in the last minute of extra time, smashing home a Tigana pull back to send France into raptures of delight and ultimately on to win Euro 84.
There are so many things I took from this tournament that stay with me even today, the classic French kits, never bettered by Adidas, the flowing, beautiful football played by most the countries, Platini, majestic in every game and finishing as the tournaments top scorer with 9 goals in 5 matches, the simple black and white ball, even the players names evoke wonderful memories for me, Preben Elkjaer, Didier Six, Rudi Voeller and Joel Bats and of course the French midfields nickname, “Le Carre Magique” – The Magic Square.
It also seemed to be fitting for the French to triumph, due the bitter end to their World Cup campaign in Espana 82, a tournament that made me realise that the best teams sometimes don’t win. The sight of the French side defeated, broken and scarred from the semi final defeat at the hands of West Germany and Patrice Battison’s horrific injury after leading 3-1 in extra time still haunts me.